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FLORA AND FAUNA
Malaysia seizes smuggled tortoises worth $300,000
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) May 15, 2017


Indonesians arrested over Sumatran tiger poaching
Bengkulu, Indonesia (AFP) May 15, 2017 - Indonesian authorities have arrested two men on suspicion of poaching Sumatran tigers and seized a skin and bones taken from one of the rare animals, a national park official said Monday.

Awaludin and Sabian, who like many Indonesians go by one name, were detained Saturday by police and forest rangers in a village in North Bengkulu district on western Sumatra island.

Authorities acted on a tip-off from villagers who said the men often hunted for protected species in the enormous Kerinci Seblat national park, believed to be home to some 150 Sumatran tigers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Sumatran tiger as critically endangered and estimates as few as 440 remain in the wild.

"We tailed the men all day after being tipped off and arrested them late Saturday," national park chief Arief Tongkagie told AFP.

"They were carrying a preserved tiger skin and its bones."

The men, in their 40s, are still being questioned by police. They could face up to five years in jail if found guilty of breaking Indonesian laws that protect endangered animals.

Police are also investigating whether they were part of a larger wildlife poaching syndicate.

Poaching is a major cause of the rapid decline of Sumatran tiger populations. The creature's body parts are used in traditional Asian medicine and fetch a high price on the black market.

Apart from being hunted, the animals are also under threat from the destruction of their rainforest habitat to make way for palm oil and paper plantations.

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of the tiger species and is distinguished by thick black stripes on its orange coat.

Malaysian customs foiled an attempt to smuggle hundreds of the world's most endangered tortoises into the country from Madagascar, a senior official said Monday.

The 330 ploughshare and radiated tortoises seized at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Sunday were worth $276,784, Abdul Wahid Sulong, deputy director of the customs department told AFP.

All of the reptiles were found alive, he added.

"It is a big haul. It could be for the local market or for re-export. We are investigating," the enforcement agency said in a statement.

"Based on public tip-off, customs officials raided the cargo area of the airport and found five suspicious crates," the statement added.

"It had arrived at KLIA on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar."

The golden-domed ploughshare tortoise is native to Madagascar and due to poaching is the most endangered tortoise on the planet.

Madagascar's radiated tortoise -- considered one of the most beautiful species of the animal -- is also rapidly nearing extinction due to rampant hunting for its meat and the illegal pet trade.

Abdul Wahid said the contents of the crates were labelled as stones and the address of the recipient was found to be false.

Malaysia bans the import of critically endangered animals. Anyone found guilty of the offence can be jailed for up to three years and fined.

Elizabeth John, senior communications officer of the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic), said the tortoise haul followed on the heels of other busts of animal products originating from Africa, including rhino horn and pangolin scales.

"With the string of recent seizures of wildlife from Africa, Malaysian enforcement agencies are sending a strong warning to smugglers that they mean business," she told AFP.

John said the routes used by traffickers in recent cases point to a need for greater scrutiny of airports in the Middle East.

FLORA AND FAUNA
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While recent reports reveal the existence of more than 114,000,000 documents of published scientific literature, finding a way to improve the access to this knowledge and efficiently synthesise it becomes an increasingly pressing issue. Seeking to address the problem through their PLUTo workflow, British scientists Ross Mounce and Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge and Matthew Will ... read more

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